A lot has changed with how society thinks about what it means to identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ). In the past, these figures were largely misunderstood and the issues that faced the LGBTQ community were not as openly discussed. Now, we hear more and more proud LGBTQ and ally voices of all ages speaking up. A growing number of states across the US are passing legislation that promotes acceptance and equality.
Still, even with all this progress and better representations in pop culture of LGBTQ characters, a lot of stubborn ideas or stereotypes around LGBTQ identity remain.
“I’m not LGBTQ, so why should this matter?”
This fact sheet isn’t just for someone who is gay, lesbian, questioning, bi, transgender, etc. This is meant for anyone interested in understanding some of the stereotypes that surround the LGBTQ community and what types of stigma or obstacles they face as a result. It can help you gain some insight that might help change your views or encourage you to challenge the perception of others.
1. “Being LGBTQ is something you could and should try to change.”
Unfortunately, this is a myth that is heard a lot still. It often comes from a place of discomfort and denial. No matter where it comes from, it can be hurtful to hear, especially if you have struggled with a difficult situation at home or school. The real issue isn’t someone’s identity, but a lack of support and understanding for who they are. You can challenge this myth by looking towards organizations that educate and support LGBTQ people along with their friends, families and allies. Two great places for getting started are PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), which has chapters across the country and many in California, and the Family Acceptance Project, which is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has many video stories and resources to help support LGBTQ family members.
2. “In any LGBTQ relationship, someone always takes on a masculine role while the other takes on a more feminine role.”
This myth comes from an older and simpler understanding of gender as binary – or as simply male or female. In reality, queer relationships, like most relationships today, cannot be reduced to these traditional gender roles. The more important relationship qualities to focus on are values such as equality and respect. Understanding that this expectation of a “guy role” and a “girl role” come from stereotypes instead of reality can help you and others avoid disrespectful questions and comments.
3. “People aren’t bisexual, they're just going through a phase and can’t decide.”
This myth comes from another more traditional idea that sexual orientation is an either/or situation rather than a spectrum. Many who identify as bisexual are faced with hurtful comments such as “You've had a girlfriend for 3 years so you must not be bisexual” or “ He came out as bi but give it a couple years and he'll admit he’s gay.” This untrue and unkind belief has been a problem inside as well as well as outside, the LGBTQ community and can contribute to a feeling of being alone that some bisexuals feel. By accepting and supporting the spectrum of sexuality, you can challenge this myth and reduce the stigma associated with bisexuality.
4. “Children of LGBTQ parents will also turn out to be LBGTQ.”
This myth, that LGBTQ parents can “turn” their child LBGTQ, can lead to judgmental attitudes directed towards parents. The main challenges that come from growing up with an LGBTQ parent is based on the uninformed beliefs of others rather than the reality of these families. Research in child psychology has pointed to no major difference in children raised by LGBTQ parents when compared to heterosexual parents.
5. “The LGBTQ community is mostly white”
LGBTQ people come from all races and ethnicities. There are, however, fewer LGBTQ people of color (POC) shown on TV and in movies that may lead some people to think otherwise. In recent years, there have been a few examples on screen and in news headlines, but we still have a ways to go before we see the diversity of the LGBTQ community shown in pop culture. In reality, thankfully, there are many sources of support for LGBTQ POC. Many communities and college campuses even have LGBTQ groups with a cultural focus.
Myths and stereotypes are barriers that block communities from collaborating and truly understanding one another. If we want to start making stereotypes around LGBTQ a thing of a past, then really opening up to one another as friends, community members, classmates, allies etc. will start to erase all those less informed ideas and replace them with an accurate view of who we are.
This story was produced in collaboration with GSA Network as part of an initiative of Proposition 63 funded by California counties to develop mental health resources for LGBTQ youth in California. See the funding statement below for details.
This program is funded by counties through the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63). It is one of several Prevention and Early Intervention Initiatives implemented by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of California counties working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. CalMHSA encourages the use of materials contained herein, as they are explained in our licensing agreements. To view the agreements, please visit: calmhsa.org